PHOTO BY RICH BARNES

Dami Oladunmoye played 12 games in the defensive midfield last season.

Early 2023 Rankings: Nos. 25-21 (Division I Men)


All of Division I’s head coaching positions are filled. The rush to the transfer portal has come and (mostly) gone. And while there’s the pesky variable of who exactly is going to take advantage of the pandemic blanket waiver from 2020 and extend their career another year, most teams are pretty well set.

Which means now is as good a time as any to roll out the annual Early Top 25. Each day this week, we’ll roll out a five-team segment to set the table on the 2023 season long before the first whistle blows in the dead of winter.

Early 2023 Rankings

Division I Men
No. 25 - No. 21
No. 20 - No. 16
No. 15 - No. 11
No. 10 - No. 6
No. 5 - No. 1
Division I Women
No. 25 - No. 21
No. 20 - No. 16
No. 15 - No. 11
No. 10 - No. 6
No. 5 - No. 1

"At the very least, Gait and defensive coordinator Dave Pietramala know all too well what needs tinkering."


T-25. SYRACUSE

2022 record: 4-10 (1-5 Atlantic Coast)

Last seen: Surrendering an average of 17.5 goals during a six-game losing streak to stagger to the end of a forgettable season.

Initial forecast: There’s a case to be made — and a really good one, too — that the Orange belong nowhere near this conversation at the moment. After all, it’s a program that bottomed out in coach Gary Gait’s first season, and it has everything in the world to prove on the defensive end. Syracuse was 66th nationally in scoring defense (14.71), 71st in saves per game (10.07) and a dead-last 72nd (.426) in man-down defense, and any chance the Orange have of achieving respectability is rooted in massive improvement on that end of the field. The good news is Syracuse can’t get much worse, and the addition of LIU transfer Will Mark should improve the goalie situation. The newcomers on offense — Alex Simmons (Denver), Cole Kirst (Lehigh) and freshman Joey Spallina, among them — will generate more attention, and they’ll no doubt help immediately. At the very least, Gait and defensive coordinator Dave Pietramala know all too well what needs tinkering. The guess here is the Orange get better as the spring goes along, and perhaps even spoils someone’s season (like they did with Duke in 2022).

T-25. JOHNS HOPKINS

2022 record: 7-9 (2-3 Big Ten)

Last seen: Wrapping up a third consecutive sub-.500 season, this time with a 16-11 loss to Maryland in the Big Ten semifinals that at least had the benefit of not being nearly as bad as the 22-7 throttling the Blue Jays endured two weeks earlier at Homewood Field.

Initial forecast: Sticking with the early theme of former national powers stuck in a down cycle, the Blue Jays are 13-24 over the last three seasons and last won an NCAA tournament game in 2018. Those kinds of tidbits will not go over well with Hopkins fans, who have now gone 15 years without a national title. Still, Hopkins had a few moments last season, with victories over Jacksonville and Loyola in February and an emphatic sweep of struggling Penn State late. The Blue Jays changed offensive coordinators, bringing back alum John Crawley from Lehigh to take over for John Grant Jr. There’s still some talent in place, and the addition of Georgetown long pole Alex Mazzone as a grad transfer will help. Yet it’s hard to be overly bullish about this bunch’s ceiling. Of the 16 team statistics tracked by the NCAA, Hopkins didn’t finish in the top 30 (out of 72) in any of them (man-up offense led the way at No. 31). Until the Blue Jays find something to really hang their hats on, they’ll be hard pressed to make a serious postseason push.








24. UTAH

2022 record: 10-4 (5-0 Atlantic Sun)

Last seen: Having a seven-game winning streak halted at the worst possible time — in the first conference title game in the program’s brief history.

Initial forecast: The Utes won’t be boring, and they could very well be extremely hungry after falling 18-17 in overtime to Robert Morris in the Atlantic Sun final just three weeks after trouncing the Colonials 18-8 in the regular season. Still, Utah put down several markers — from testing Denver to throttling Jacksonville to running through the A-Sun regular season undefeated — that it is about to emerge from its nascent stages as a program and make a postseason breakthrough. Utah didn’t have a huge graduating class, and while it lost three starters, there is plenty returning to a team that averaged 13.6 goals a game and ranked sixth nationally in assists per contest (8.79). Tyler Bradbury (29 goals, 33 assists) was the A-Sun’s offensive player of the year in 2022, and Samuel Cambere (three goals, nine assists, 66 ground balls) earned the league’s defensive player of the year nod. Both are back, and the Utes should join Jacksonville and defending champ Robert Morris as the A-Sun’s top tier in 2023.

23. LOYOLA

2022 record: 8-8 (6-2 Patriot)

Last seen: Closing out an uneven season with a 14-13 loss to Army in the Patriot League semifinals.

Initial forecast: It’s not hard to guess where many of the questions directed at the Greyhounds will come from. How do they replace longtime attack mainstays Kevin Lindley and Aidan Olmstead? Who wins the opportunity to succeed goalie Sam Shafer and faceoff specialist Bailey Savio? With long pole Ryan McNulty’s graduation, who’s the next in a long line of impact players at that spot? Some of those are easier to answer than others — for example, an offense with Adam Poitras (29 goals, nine assists), Evan James (26 goals, 11 assists), Joey Kamish (19 goals, nine assists), Seth Higgins (15 goals, 11 assists) and Davis Lindsey (eight goals, 20 assists) isn’t starting out in a bad place. The more concerning thing on Cold Spring Lane is coming off two years of things largely not fitting together well. Loyola solved it in time to make the tournament in 2021 but could not last spring despite oodles of experience. They’ll be old (if not as tested) this year with 11 seniors and seven graduate students, but it’s still safe to expect some changes.




PHOTO BY JOHN STROHSACKER

Adam Poitras produced 29 goals and nine assists for Loyola in 2022.


22. ARMY

2022 record: 12-4 (6-2 Patriot)

Last seen: Being unable to defeat Boston University on its home field for the second time in 10 days, a Patriot League tournament loss that kept the Black Knights out of the postseason.

Initial forecast: There’s some reluctance in pegging the Black Knights outside the Top 20, so let it be said now: If Joe Alberici’s bunch finds a way to win the Patriot League next year, it wouldn’t be astonishing. Nonetheless, attackman Brendan Nichtern was probably the most valuable player to his own team in all of Division I, and he departed West Point as the school’s career leader in points and assists. As good as Army’s plug-and-play approach is even with replacing its best players — AJ Pilate emerging as a freshman on close defense last year in place of a sidelined (and, eventually Ohio State-bound) Marcus Hudgins comes to mind — this represents a different sort of challenge. The Black Knights won’t be bad; even with graduation losses, they have more capable midfielders than pretty much anyone, and their defense is bound to keep them in nearly every game. On the surface, though, it looks as if Army’s peak will be a bit lower than the last few years.

21. VILLANOVA

2022 record: 9-6 (3-2 Big East)

Last seen: Being unable to overcome spotting Georgetown a seven-goal advantage in the Big East title game, though a resilient showing in the second half illustrated what a tough out the Wildcats could be.

Initial forecast: If the way-too-early countdown is in the high teens or low 20s, it is invariably time to introduce Villanova to the discussion. The Wildcats are one of the sport’s most consistent programs, often good for an early season surprise, always well-coached, usually feisty and perennially a headache for opposing defensive coordinators. Both of Villanova’s All-America selections — midfielder Matt Campbell (45 goals, 22 assists) and defensive midfielder Chet Comizio — are eligible to return for fifth seasons, so there will be some significant knowns in the mix. So is there enough to get back to the postseason for the first time since 2018? It’s a fair question for a program that should feel good about knocking off Denver in the Big East semis last season. The Wildcats are also 0-8 against Georgetown, and ending that skid against the Hoyas (either in the regular season or the Big East tournament) would go a long way in bolstering Villanova’s postseason chances next spring.


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